Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Latin Reader (2): Astutam vulpem gallus voret

Here is an item for the Alchemical Latin Reader from Stoltzius's Viridarium chymicum of 1624 (PDF download); I chose this one because of the fox. This fox is both devouring a rooster (as you would expect) and being devoured in turn (paradoxically). The poem explains:

Tertia Clavis Basilii (Basil's Third Key)

E petris aquilae rigidum conjunge Draconem: 
Exuret pennas, solvet et ille nives. 
Cum sale coelesti sulphur servare memento, 
Astutam vulpem gallus ut inde voret. 
Ales mersus aquis ad vitam ex igne redibit, 
Sentiet atque parem vulpis ab ore necem.

Out of the eagle's stones (e petris aquilae), join the stiff Dragon (rigidum conjunge Draconem): He will burn the feathers (exuret pennas), and he will also melt the snows (solvet et ille nives). Remember to keep the sulphur (sulphur servare memento) with the heavenly salt (cum sale coelesti) in order that (ut inde) the rooster devour the sly fox (astutam vulpem gallus voret). The winged one (ales), dipped in the waters (mersus aquis), will return to life (ad vitam redibit) out of the fire (ex igne), and he will feel (sentiet atque) a corresponding murder (parem necem) by the mouth of the fox (vulpis ab ore).

Here's a close-up that shows the fox, and also shows how there is the alchemical symbol for iron coming out of the dragon's mouth:

For some clues to the symbolism, see this article: A fresh look at alchemy by Lawrence Principe (cached at Google). Under the heading "The golden key," Principe discusses the twelve emblems of Basilius Valentinus, which is what we find in the first section of Stolzius also: "If you can interpret it, the third key of Basilius Valentinus encodes the volatilization of gold chloride." You can see the similarity in the emblem that Principe includes, although the directions are rather different and more detailed, and Principe deciphers the symbolic language in order to describe how it might produce gold chloride. See the article (cached at Google) for details.

You can also read an English rendering of the Third Key here: The Hermetic Museum by E. A. Waite — here is what it says about the fox and the rooster: "then the Cock will swallow the Fox, and, having been drowned in the water, and quickened by the fire, will in its turn be swallowed by the Fox."

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